News / Science & Technology

Google Technology Powers Online Effort to Catch World's Forest Killers

Online Watchdog Allows for Real-Time Forest Protectioni
X
February 26, 2014 8:35 PM
The world's trees is disappearing at an alarming rate - 2.5 million square kilometers since 2000 - or the equivalent of 50 soccer fields a minute. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports a powerful forest management computer tool has been designed to access reliable real time information to stem those losses and target criminal activity.
Online Watchdog Allows for Real-Time Forest Protection
Rosanne Skirble
A powerful new online forest monitoring system is the latest tool in the fight against deforestation.

The world's tree cover is disappearing at an alarming rate - 2.5 million square kilometers since 2000, the equivalent of 50 football [soccer] fields every minute of every day - because of fire, illegal logging and land gobbled up by farms, mining and oil operations. By the time these activities are discovered, it is often too late to do anything about them, much less determine who is at fault.

Enter Global Forest Watch, created by the World Resources Institute and 40 partner groups. WRI president Andrew Steer says it's a game changer.

“It is possible to bring for the first time ever really, real-time data at a very local level to everybody in the world," he said. "And that is what Global Forest Watch is all about.”
This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows a deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil's northern state of Para.Deforestation in the tropics is increasing by 2,000 square kilometers a year with half that loss in Brazil and Indonesia.This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows a deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil's northern state of Para.Deforestation in the tropics is increasing by 2,000 square kilometers a year with half that loss in Brazil and Indonesia.
The program embeds key information into high resolution satellite images in a simple-to-use interactive website, says WRI’s Nigel Sizer, who heads the initiative.

“If you can use a Google map to find a friend’s house, then you can use Global Forest Watch to understand what is happening to forests in your community, across your country or even on the other side of the world and then take action,” Sizer said.

Mapping supply chains

Deforestation in the tropics is increasing by about 2,000 square kilometers a year according to WRI, with half that loss in Brazil and Indonesia.

Sizer says Global Forest Watch can help slow that down.

“It allows the government to focus their enforcement efforts in areas where illegal forest clearing is taking place," he said.
The border between Malaysia and Indonesia stands out in the Landsat-based map of forest disturbance. Red pixels represent forest loss between 2000 and 2012.The border between Malaysia and Indonesia stands out in the Landsat-based map of forest disturbance. Red pixels represent forest loss between 2000 and 2012.
International companies like Nestles and Unilever have pledged not use raw materials for their products that contribute to deforestion.

"They are saying, 'We are going to use Global Forest Watch so that we know which of our suppliers are doing a good job and which ones are doing a bad job,'" Sizer said.

NASA has been collecting high-resolution satellite images of the earth since 1973, and when it made the archive public in 2008, it gave scientists the ability to assess changes in the Earth's landscape.

For Global Forest Watch, Google deployed the computing power of its Earth Engine technology to turn the latest 12 years of data into an interactive map, easily available to everyone everywhere. What would have taken a single computer 15 years, took Google just a couple of days.

Powered by Google

Google Earth Outreach and Earth Engine manager Rebecca Moore says the aim is to bridge an information gap.

“The science exists. The data exists, but the amount of data that is required, satellite image data, to actually have an accurate detailed current picture of the world’s forests; it is quadrillions of pixels," Moore said. "It is billions of megabytes of data. No one has ever been able to store, much less analyze, that data before.”

LISTEN: TV Google Technology Powers Online Effort to Catch World's Forest Killers
TV Google Technology Powers Online Effort to Catch World's Forest Killersi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The satellite images are so detailed, it is possible to determine whether a section of forest has been logged, burned or felled by disease. Moore says users can take pictures of what happens on the ground and add to the database.

"You can follow the license plate on that truck with the illegal logs on the Trans Amazon Highway," she said. "That automatically can get uploaded into Global Forest Watch and support law enforcement."

Moore calls the potential of the combining the satellite images with the ground reality, all powered by the Internet, "unprecedented.”

Empowering indigenous people

No one hungers for this information more than Ecuadoran Juan Carlos Jintiach, who coordinates dialogue among native peoples and governments in nine Amazon basin countries. He says what they learn from Global Forest Watch will advance that conversation.

“It is a simple way to share our voice and histories," Jintiach said. "For the first time, using Global Forest Watch, we can easily upload alerts and photos for the entire world to see when encroachment happens in our forests and to monitor those lands in real time.”

Jintiach says the next step is to mobilize people to put the new tool to work to protect the world’s forests before it is too late.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More